Fixing sleep issues during menopause may reduce weight gain according to new study.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School found poor sleep quality decreases the amount of fat used by the body for energy during menopause, which over time may lead to greater fat storage and ultimately weight gain.

Many women complain of disturbed sleep during the peri-menopause and menopause. They often experience difficulty falling and staying asleep, due to factors such as changing hormone levels, hot flushes and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

Hormonal changes during menopause are often thought to be the cause of weight gain, however sleep disturbance has independently been associated with changes in metabolism that might increase the risk of added kilos and also lead women to eat more.

“Our findings suggest that not only estrogen withdrawal but also sleep disturbances during menopause may contribute to changes in a woman’s body that could predispose midlife women to weight gain,” said lead researcher Leilah Grant. “Helping women sleep better during menopause may therefore reduce the chances a woman will gain weight, which in turn will lower her risk of diabetes and other related diseases.”

Rates of obesity increase in women around the age of menopause. Menopause-related weight gain is often thought to be caused by reduced levels of the female hormone estrogen. Estrogen is unlikely to be to be the only contributing factor, however, since all women's estrogen levels fall in menopause, but only about half gain weight. 

The researchers found that after three nights of disturbed sleep there was a significant reduction in the rate at which the women’s bodies used fat. A similar reduction in fat utilisation was also seen when estrogen levels were lower, even during normal sleep. The combination of low estrogen and sleep disturbance also reduced fat utilisation, but the effect was not larger than either exposure on their own.

“In addition to estrogen withdrawal, sleep disturbances decrease fat utilisation,” Grant said. “This may increase the likelihood of fat storage and subsequent weight gain during menopause.

"Helping women sleep better may therefore reduce the chances they will gain weight, which in turn will lower their risk of diabetes and other related diseases."

How to get better sleep after 40

© Prevention Australia